NASA will make a plan to create a time pattern for the Moon – 04/03/2024 – Science

NASA will make a plan to create a time pattern for the Moon – 04/03/2024 – Science


The White House asked NASA on Tuesday (2) for a plan to establish a unified time standard for the Moon and other celestial bodies. The request is made amid a new lunar race, involving nations and private companies.

According to a memo seen by Reuters, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Arati Prabhakar, instructed the space agency to work with other areas of the US government to develop a plan until the end of 2026 to create Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC).

The different gravitational force and potentially additional factors on the Moon and other celestial bodies change how time passes relative to how it is perceived on Earth. If taken off paper, the LTC could become a reference for spacecraft and satellites that require extreme precision for their missions.

“The same clock we have on Earth would move at a different rate on the Moon,” said Kevin Coggins, NASA’s chief of space communications and navigation.

According to the memo from the head of the OSTP, for a person on the Moon, an Earth-based clock would apparently have to lose an average of 58.7 microseconds per Earth day and would receive other periodic variations that would make lunar time move even further away from Earth time.

“Think of the atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory (in Washington). They are the beating heart of the nation, synchronizing everything,” Coggins said.

With the Artemis program, NASA plans to send missions to the Moon in the coming years and establish a scientific base on the satellite that could help set the stage for travel to Mars.

An OSTP member said that without a unified lunar time standard, it would be challenging to ensure that data transfers between spacecraft are secure and that communications between Earth, lunar satellites, bases and astronauts are synchronized.

Furthermore, timing discrepancies would lead to errors in mapping and locating positions on the Moon or in orbit.

On Earth, most clocks and time zones are based on Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. This internationally recognized standard relies on a vast global network of atomic clocks placed in different locations around the world. They measure changes in the state of atoms and generate an average that, in the end, makes up a precise time.

The deployment of atomic clocks on the lunar surface may be necessary, according to an OSTP member.

According to this same person, as commercial activities expand to the Moon, a unified time standard would be essential to coordinate operations, ensure the reliability of transactions and manage the logistics of lunar trade.

“US leadership in defining an appropriate standard — one that achieves the precision and resilience necessary to operate in the challenging lunar environment — will benefit all space nations,” says an excerpt from the OSTP memo.

To be put into practice, Coordinated Lunar Time will require international agreements, according to the memo, through “existing standards bodies” and among the 36 countries that have signed the Atermis Agreements, which involve terms on how countries act in space and in Moon. China and Russia, the US’s two main rivals in space, have not signed these agreements.

Although the United States is the only country to have placed astronauts on the Moon, others have lunar ambitions, such as the satellite’s potential mineral resources.

China said last year that it intends to place its first astronauts on the Moon by 2030. India, which last year became the first country to land near the South Pole, announced plans to send an astronaut to the moon by 2040.


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